Featured image is a screenshot from the Oculus Store promoting “HeadMaster” on the Gear VR by Chesstar Studios.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in this case Chesstar Studios may have gone too far. The Chinese developer already released one game on Gear VR, an endless runner by the name of Space Agent. Like many games in the genre, it takes a lot of cues from more successful entries. Chesstar released its second title this week, though, and the similarities to an exclusive PlayStation VR game of the same name are too extensive to ignore.
The developer launched HeadMaster onto the Gear VR for free. Does that name sound familiar to you? Well it should; Headmaster is also the name of an upcoming PlayStation VR game from Frame Interactive Studio. Yes, save for the capitalized “M”, the two have the exact same name. You could pass that off as an amusing coincidence, but scratch below the surface and you’ll find two games that aren’t so much similar as they are practically identical.
As the name suggests, both titles are soccer games, but they booth look like they are based around the exact same mechanic: using a headset’s head-tracking to hit an incoming soccer ball at various targets. It’s a simple mechanic that’s open to imitation, but it’s bizarre to have two games share the same name and concept. The most striking comparison, though, comes from the visuals and art direction.
As you can see in the images above, the two titles are basically twins. The biggest differences seem to be a function of packing the game down to run on smartphone hardware. Chesstar’s HeadMaster has simpler textures and more primitive lighting than Frame Interactive’s Headmaster on PS4, but otherwise looks set in a very similar environment, using the same circular yellow signs as point targets.
All this begs the question, what on Earth is going on? We can’t say for certain yet, but it’s looking likely that Frame’s Headmaster came first; it was announced all the way back at E3 2015 with roots going back into 2014. Chesstar has been working on other projects. From the press kit for Frame Interactive’s Headmaster:
Headmaster was originally conceived by Ben Throop at The Boston VR Bender game jam put on by the Boston VR Meetup, Owlchemy Labs, Valve, and Unity in June 2014. After several months of prototyping and uncertainty, the game was first shown as a last minute addition to the Show and Tell section Indiecade East in New York in February 2015. While there Ben met Nick Suttner of Sony and set up a well-received demo (good story there) which led to a follow up meeting at GDC. After a successful pitch at GDC, Frame Interactive was founded and the game was signed as a Sony exclusive for PSVR.
We reached out to Chesstar Studios, Oculus and Frame Interactive Studio, to find out why this happened. We will update this post when we hear back. It’s theoretically possible there is some affiliation between Chesstar and Frame, but the more likely scenario is that it is what it appears to be — a copycat using the name of an innovative PlayStation 4 title to draw attention to itself. Neither Frame nor Sony drew any attention to HeadMaster since its launch, and Chesstar hasn’t referenced the PS4 game either, making a tie-in seem unlikely.
If this is a case of plagiarism, it raises some questions about Oculus VR’s review process for accepting content onto its store.
UPDATE: After UploadVR notified Oculus of the similarities and reached out for comment, HeadMaster appears to have been removed from the Gear VR store.
UPDATE #2: Frame Interactive’s Ben Throop has issued UploadVR with a statement, confirming there is no link between the two projects.
While we are flattered that another developer would spend the time to copy our title and elements from our publicly available game footage, there is absolutely no affiliation between Frame Interactive, Headmaster™ for PS VR, and this title.
UPDATE #3: Chesstar Studios responded to our article in an email. The email states that when they originally conceived a “head kick VR game…we did not know any information about Frame at that time.” They said they became aware of Frame’s Headmaster in March of this year and “we have indeed referenced part of the Frame‘s design,” though “we have not played Frame’s Headmaster.” They thought they could build a version of a “head kick” game suitable for mobile VR and are now planning a new version “which will be more interesting” for mobile devices at the end of the year.